Herod the tetrarch was nervous. Strange stories were reaching his ears, stories about Jesus of Nazareth. This Jesus, Herod learned, was preaching in synagogues all over the countryside, proclaiming that the Kingdom of God was at hand. He was drawing huge crowds and even challenging the Pharisees. Herod didn't mind that last part; the Pharisees were a pain, and he enjoyed seeing them put in their place once in a while.
But there was more. According to the rumor, Jesus wasn't just preaching. He was healing people, people who shouldn't even be able to be healed, at least not by human means: a leper cleansed, a man with a withered hand made whole, a paralytic up and walking, a centurion's servant brought back from the brink of death, a demonic sane again, a bleeding woman healed. It was creepy, Herod thought, uncanny.
And as if that weren't enough, there were two tales spreading around that seemed unbelievable. The first spoke of a widow's son over in Nain. He had died. That much was certain. Then Jesus showed up during the funeral procession, and all of a sudden, the fellow wasn't dead anymore. Herod shivered just thinking about it.
He might have been able to dismiss it as a tall tale if not for a second story that related a similar incident. This time a young girl had died. Again, those present were positive that she was dead. The mourners were already weeping and carrying on. Then Jesus showed up with the girl's father. He went into the room where the girl lay, grasped her hand, and told her to get up. And she did!
Something weird was definitely going on here. Who was this man Jesus anyway? Herod had heard much speculation. Some said He was Elijah, others another old prophet. Personally, Herod wondered if John the Baptist, the one he had beheaded (the memory made him wince), had come back to life. He knew one thing for sure. He wanted to see this Jesus. He wanted to talk to Him. Then maybe he could solve the mystery, get to the bottom of all these bizarre stories, and resume his normal, comfortable life. Just maybe...
Friday – Who Do You Say That I Am?
In today's Gospel, Jesus asks His disciples a question so important that it rings out through time and space and resonates in our hearts: “Who do you say that I am?”
Everyone who encounters Jesus must answer that question, and the way we respond can mean the difference between life and death, between Heaven and hell.
Who is Jesus to you? Is He a character in a story? Is He a good man who was tragically killed? Is He a wise teacher? Is He a prophet?
Who is Jesus to you? Is He your God and your Savior? Is He your best friend? Is He closer than a brother? Is He the love of your life? Is He the One Who died for you and opened the gates of Heaven for you? Is He the One you want to spend eternity with?
Picture Jesus standing before you. He has a question for you, a question that must penetrate into the depths of your soul: “Who do you say that I am?” How will you answer?
Saturday – God's Indwelling Presence
“Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion! See, I am coming to dwell among you, says the Lord. Many nations shall join themselves to the Lord on that day, and they shall be His people and He will dwell among you.”
God spoke these words through the prophet Zechariah. The Jews had recently returned to Jerusalem after the exile, and they were busy rebuilding the Temple. God wanted to assure His children that His presence would return to His house and that He would once again dwell in the midst of His family.
This remarkable prophecy, however, extends far beyond the days of restoration and the physical Temple. Looking back through the lens of Jesus Christ, we can see a deeper fulfillment of God's words that the Jews could not have even imagined.
God really did come to dwell among His people, in a concrete, physical way. The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity became incarnate, assumed a human body and soul, in Jesus Christ. He walked among His people, teaching them, healing them, forgiving them, dying for them, and opening the gates of Heaven to them.
Even though He died, rose again, and ascended into Heaven, Jesus did not leave us. He is really present, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, in the Eucharist, and we can welcome Him into our bodies and hearts every day if we want to. Further, when we are in a state of grace, our Lord dwells within us, in the depths of our souls.
God truly dwells among us even today, and He has indeed gathered believers from every nation into His family, the Church. Zechariah's prophecy has truly been fulfilled, and we should sing and rejoice in worship to the God Who longs to be with His people.